Judges demand police protection; Mister Cuy arrives in New York; Curfew hours relaxed in Guayaquil and Quito; Vice president’s son arrested in Cuenca

Mar 22, 2024 | 0 comments

“We need the government to protect us,” says Yesenia Hidalgo, president of the Ecuadorian Association of Magistrates and Judges (AEMJ). She claims that judges, prosecutors and public defenders face continuing threats from criminal organizations, especially in cases involving drug gang members. “We have witnessed murders of some of our associates and we expect the threats and violence to increase as Metastasis and Purge cases go to trial.”

Hidalgo, who has served for 10 years as a criminal court judge, cited the murder of her friend and law school classmate, prosecutor César Suarez, who was gunned down in January in Guayaquil. “He was a smart, ambitious young man who died because of his investigation of the armed attack on the TC television station,” she said. “If he had protection from the police or armed forces he would still be alive.”

Gualaceo-based Mister Cuy delivered its first shipment of vacuum-packed guinea pigs to New York on Tuesday.

According to Hidalgo, many judges are resigning or considering resigning due to the lack of protection. “These are very dangerous times to be a judge or an officer of the court in Ecuador,” she said in an interview with Ecuavisa. “The level of threats and intimidation is very high and many judges have received threats not only to themselves but to their families.”

She added that some judges have been “compromised” by the threats. “We can never condone bribery, but if a judge or his or her family is threatened with violence, it is easy to understand how they could be corrupted. It is the classic choice between ‘pluma or plata.’”

The Association of Magistrates and Judges is insisting that judges in high-risk cases be supplied with protection immediately. “We need police protection now or the justice system in Ecuador will be unable to do its job.”

Mister Cuy arrives in New York
The Gualaceo-based food processor, Mister Cuy, is meeting the high demand for prepared guinea pigs for Ecuadorians living in New York and New Jersey. The first shipment of 800 vacuum-packed guinea pigs arrived by air at the JFK airport on Tuesday.

According Mister Cuy CEO Adrián Gutama, his company plans to ship 1,000 units per month to the U.S., with most shipments headed to New York City. “There is a great hunger among Ecuadorians in the U.S. for cuy,” he says. “Our goal is to satisfy this need and we expect it to grow rapidly with time.”

He said future shipment destinations may include Miami, Minneapolis and Chicago, cities with large populations of Ecuadorians.

Gutama says the shipments will also benefit the estimated 500 guinea pig farmers in Azuay Province. “The industry is concentrated around Cuenca and Gualaceo and the new market will benefit many of our local families,” he says.

Gutama’s business partner, agronomist Galo Tenezaca, believes the U.S. market for packaged cuy will expand rapidly. “Our goal is to deliver a product of traditional heritage to migrants in the U.S.,” he said. “The product will be raised and prepared under standards and techniques used by farmers for generations and will remind them of their childhood in Azuay Province.”

Curfew hours relaxed
The national emergency curfew has been reduced by one hour in Quito, Guayaquil and other cities considered at the highest risk for organized crime. Under orders released Thursday, the revised curfew begins at 1 a.m. instead of midnight and ends at 5 a.m.

The curfew is unchanged in cities at medium risk, including Cuenca, Azogues, Tulcán, Riobamba, and Samborondón, beginning at 2 a.m. and ending at 5 a.m. The 90-day emergency period ends April 7.

Vice president’s son arrested in Cuenca
The son of Vice President Verónica Abad, Francisco Sebastián Barreiro, has been arrested and charged with extortion and influence peddling in relation to his mother’s office. The arrest was made as part of the “Nene Case” and included arrests in Quito as well as Cuenca, where Barreiro lives.

Prosecutors claim Barreiro demanded a payment of $1,700 monthly from the vice president’s communication director, even insisting the director sign an agreement guaranteeing the payment. Following the submission of evidence, a judge accepted the prosecution’s request that Barreiro remain in custody for 90 days while the investigation continues.

Barreiro, 34, has held a number of public positions, serving as National Police commander in Cuenca and Pucará, and as National Director of Mediation Services for the Public Defender’s Office.

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